Sunday, July 22, 2018

How music led Daniel DeLeon to study the ocean with machine learning

Daniel DeLeon never imagined he would use machine learning to study endangered whales.
But a life-long passion for music and fascination with the science of sound led him to an internship at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, where he used TensorFlow, Google’s open-source machine learning tool, to make breakthroughs identifying endangered whale calls.
Learn more about Daniel’s remarkable journey at
and at Google stories

Saturday, July 21, 2018

New Zealand Linz layer update in the GeoGarage platform

12 nautical raster charts updated

How the beach benefits your brain, according to science

From Inc by Anne Gherini

There is something soothing about the sound of ocean waves, the smell of salt water, and the feeling of warm sand beneath your toes.
Having grown up near the beach, I always classified my happiness on the beach as no more than nostalgia.
Yet, recent studies prove that a beach-type environment can have a profound impact on our brains and mental health.

Although few people deny the importance of brain health, most of us don't focus as much effort on taking care of our brains as we do our bodies.
The misnomer that physical fitness trumps mental health is at our detriment.
The reality is that we need balance, both mentally and physically.

Numerous studies help us appreciate why the beach may be the premier destination for us to unwind and recharge our minds.

Listen to Crashing Waves

Several months ago I partook in a deprivation float (the practice that many superstars such as, Steph Curry swear by).
As my mind reached a meditative state, I could not help but hear a sound similar to that of waves crashing gently on the beach.
This repetitive sound that was created as a result of my rhythmic breaths and my ears being submerged in salt water instantly put me at ease.

"These slow, whooshing noises are the sounds of non-threats, which is why they work to calm people," says Orfeu Buxton, an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Pennsylvania State University.
"It's like they're saying: "Don't worry, don't worry, don't worry."
The sound of waves can help you achieve a meditative state, which is proven to heal and strengthen your brain.

Remove the Blues

Studies have shown that different colors often produce different psychological, emotional, and physical effects.
The color blue, for instance, is often used in marketing material to convey a sense of calmness.
The Global Healing Center advises individuals to actually surround themselves in blue as a way to reduce stress.

According to Richard Shuster, PsyD, clinical psychologist, he agrees that blue has a profound calming effect on people.
"Staring at the ocean actually changes our brain waves' frequency and puts us into a mild meditative state," says Shuster.

Smell the Ocean Mist

When you first step out on the sand and allow your lungs to be filled with salty misty air, your brain may be receiving instant benefits.
The negative ions (oxygen ions with an extra electron attached, produced via water molecules) in the ocean air can actually help calm your brain.

Negative ions have been shown to have a pronounced anti-depressant effect as well.
As early as 1932, American research engineer Dr. Clarence Hansell noticed that the mood of one of his colleagues fluctuated in response to the type of ions - cheerful when subjected to positive ions and gloomy when subjected to negative ones.

Subsequent studies have found that the act of negatively ionized air -- the kind you receive when you get outside for a gulp of fresh air -- can alleviate symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

 It's a proven fact, living by the sea has many health benefits, here are a few of them.
After watching this you too will want to relocate closer to the ocean.
All video taken in the Maldives.

Feel the Sand Between Your Toes

Grounding, otherwise known as walking barefoot, has been proven to have a number of stimulating benefits to our bodies and minds.
The reason is that our feet contain a rich network of nerves and acupuncture points.
Our feet are able to absorb free ions on the earth surface in much the same way that our lungs are able to absorb ions in the air.

A report in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine shed some more light on these benefits.
The earth is negatively charged, so when you walk barefoot, you're connecting your body to a negatively charged supply of energy.
The result is one that many of us feel as soon as we kick off our shoes.
Walking barefoot on the beach can trigger tingling warm sensations produced as a result of us "grounding" to earth.

"There are all these cognitive and emotional benefits that we derive every time we spend time by water" said Wallace J.
Nichols, a marine biologist and best-selling author of the Blue Mind.
"Once you get into it, you realize that it's chemistry, it's biology, it's physiology.
It's deeply personal but it's also strong science."

In 2012, a University of Exeter study found that simply living within close proximity to a beach improves one's health and wellbeing.
While it may be unreasonable for some of us to uproot and move to a beach town, prioritizing getting outdoors and connecting with the earth will still help you stay mentally fit.

Friday, July 20, 2018

US NOAA layer update in the GeoGarage platform

8 nautical raster charts updated

Dive under the ice with the brave robots of Antarctica

An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), known as SeaBED, providing the first detailed, high-resolution 3-D maps of Antarctic sea ice. The new technology provides accurate ice thickness measurements from areas that were previously too difficult to access.

From Wired by Matt Simon

The lava fields of Hawaii.
The peaks of the Himalayas.
The crowds of a Justin Bieber concert.
These are among the most perilous of environments on planet Earth, places where few humans dare tread.
They ain’t got nothin’, though, on waters of our planet’s polar regions, where frigid temperatures and considerable pressures would snuff a puny human like you in a heartbeat.

Robots, though?
This is the stuff their tough-as-hell bodies were made for.
This is the domain of Seabed, the sensor-packed machine that dives over a mile deep into the polar seas—autonomously—collecting invaluable data.
But it comes at a price: Getting the bot back to its icebreaking boat alive can be more challenging than communicating with a Mars rover millions of miles away.

 This graphic shows how self-driving Seagliders and floats will track conditions below an Antarctic ice shelf. Inside these caves, warmer saltwater flows in on the bottom, carrying heat that may eat away at the ice, and fresher glacial meltwater flows out above.
(University of Washington)

Seabed doesn’t swim like your typical autonomous underwater vehicle.
Most are shaped like torpedoes, which allows them to efficiently cut through the water like jets.
Seabed instead can use its propellers to hover in the water column like a helicopter.
This allows it to hang over the seafloor and map it with sonar, or cozy up next to ice to measure its thickness.

The robot can’t be tethered for hardwired communication, on account of the ice, and radio waves don’t work underwater.
So instead, Seabed sends signals of sound (like MIT’s hypnotic fish robot).
Even then, the robot isn’t always a reliable communicator.
“If we are lucky, we get a 256 byte packet once every minute,” says Northeastern University roboticist Hanumant Singh, who developed Seabed.
“And there are no guarantees that we can get it.” Compare that to how NASA scientists communicate with Mars rovers: The signal takes an average of 20 minutes to get from the robots to Earth, but at least it’s consistent.
If Singh needs to ping Seabed, the signal might not get there.

To account for the dropped signals, Singh gives the robot a course to, say, run along a particular stretch of the seafloor and map it with sonar.
If something appears to be going awry, like colder weather blows in and starts freezing over the ice hole Seabed’s supposed to surface in, Singh can send a signal to cut the mission short.
Ideally, it reaches the recipient quickly.
(He’s only lost one of these robots, by the way, not because of a communication breakdown but because an intense current swept it away.)

If Seabed comes up in the wrong spot under thick ice, there’s also no guarantee its operators can get it out of the water.
It may come up near the icebreaker, like on one mission in 2010.
You can’t go breaking ice willy-nilly near a $500,000 robot, so the researchers had to dig a small hole in the ice.
This gave them access to the vehicle, to which they attached weights to sink it a bit, but also a float to keep it from plummeting to the bottom of the sea.
Then the ship could crack open up the ice further—carefully still, of course—and pull the robot out.
On another nearly ill-fated mission, the researchers had to deploy a smaller tethered ROV to grab Seabed and tow it safely to open water.

Generally, though, Seabed returns to within just a few meters of where operators expect it to surface.
Again, if the robot weren’t reliably autonomous, this environment would eat it alive.

And once Seabed is in the water, it’s happy as a fish in … water.
It’s sealed up nice and tight to keep freezing water from infiltrating the electronics.
So if you bring it out of a warm ship hangar and drop it in the sea quickly, it’ll be alright.
Where things get problematic is when you have to pull the robot out of the water, then expect to use it again right away.

“You put the vehicle in the water and you're doing a test and you realize, oh, we forgot something,” says Singh.
The water itself is around 40 degrees Fahrenheit, but the air drops to zero degrees.
“You bring the vehicle back up and now it's completely encased in ice.”

But enough about problems.
Seabed is one tenacious science machine, whose job is more important than ever in these times of climate change.
In addition to mapping the seafloor with sonar, it can do the same with ice to measure its thickness.

Which, sure, you could do by drilling lots of holes and dropping tape measures through.
But sea ice turns out to be beautifully complicated.
“In the Arctic and the Antarctic, ice isn't just sitting there and thickening as it freezes on a lake,” says sea ice physicist Ted Maksym of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has worked with Seabed.
“It's moving around and all the flows are crashing into each other, and when they do they form these huge piles of ice.”

These features develop not only above the surface, but as much as 60 feet deep, which Seabed can map with sonar, swimming back and forth across the face of the ice.
“It's just like mowing your lawn from below,” says Maksym.

What Maksym wants to understand is how ice thickens and thins in polar regions.
In the arctic, for instance, old ice is disappearing, and ice in general is becoming more seasonal.
“So understanding how the processes that govern the thickness of ice change as the arctic changes helps us understand how the arctic is going to respond to climate change,” says Maksym.

That means putting Seabed in danger, sure, but also means taking human divers out of danger.
The robot may get stuck under the ice from time to time, but the data it’s gathering is vital to science’s understanding of Earth’s most brutal environments not affiliated with Justin Bieber.

Links :

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Google’s first private trans-Atlantic subsea cable will connect the U.S. and France in 2020

 Many major internet companies are investing in subsea cable projects too — last year, SoftBank, Facebook, and Amazon teamed up for a 8,700-mile transpacific cable system, which is expected to launch in the next couple of years.
Do you believe that owning their subsea cables instead of going through a consortium of companies will make non-telecom companies like Google more efficient in providing data services to its customers?

From 9to5Google by Abner Li 

Google Cloud is rapidly expanding its infrastructure from new cloud regions to investing in three consortium subsea cables this year alone.
The latest move involves building its first private trans-Atlantic cable to further expand its network.

Google announces its first private transatlantic subsea cable,
stretching from Virginia to France
What about sovereignty and neutrality for the Internet ?
Google Cloud cable systems
Image Credit: Google

Subsea cables are expensive endeavors and usually involve consortiums of major players with similar needs partnering to build and cover the cost.
Alternately, companies can simply purchase capacity from existing cables.
However, earlier this year, Google announced that it was building a private intercontinental cable from Chile to Los Angeles called Curie.

Today’s newest cable will connect Virginia Beach — specifically the GCP North Virginia region — to the French west coast and GCP Belgium.

Dunant adds network capacity across the Atlantic, supplementing one of the busiest routes on the internet, and supporting the growth of Google Cloud.
We’re working with TE SubCom to design, manufacture and lay the cable for Dunant, which will bring well-provisioned, high-bandwidth, low-latency, highly secure cloud connections between the U.S. and Europe.

It will be alphabetically named after Henri Dunant — the founder of the Red Cross and the first Nobel Peace Prize winner — following the first cable in honor of Marie Curie. According to Google, it will be ready to serve Cloud customers in late 2020.

The subsea cables include: Curie, a private cable connecting Chile to Los Angeles; Havfrue, a consortium cable connecting the United States to Denmark and Ireland; and Hong Kong-Guam Cable system, a consortium cable interconnecting major subsea communication hubs in Asia

Like in other areas of technology, there are distinct advantages to controlling the entire design, construction, and deployment process.
  • Performance and latency: Cables are often built to serve a very specific route. When we build privately, we can choose this route based on what will provide the lowest latency for the largest segment of customers. In this case, we wanted connectivity across the Atlantic that was close to certain data centers.
  • Capacity: The bandwidth that we want to deliver can vary widely, depending on what already exists and where our customers need more, now and in the future. Our capacity planning includes estimates of Google’s and our customers’ needs for years to come.
  • Guaranteed bandwidth for the lifetime of the cable: The life of a cable can vary from 15 to 25 years, but as with many infrastructure projects, they sometimes continue to serve the route beyond their initial projected lifespan. Our ability to guarantee our customers a certain level of connectivity helps them confidently plan for their businesses going forward.

Links :

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The killing of a blue whale reveals how disconnected we are from nature

Big as a bus: A massive whale, believed to be a blue whale, that was slaughtered in Iceland.

From The Guardian by

We need a better story than the pathetic one played out by beautiful animals that we haul into the sea of our ignorance

They might as well have shot a giant panda.
This week an Icelandic whaling company, Hvalur hf, caused uproar when it was revealed that it had killed a blue whale.
Hvalur has killed hundreds of fin whales – mostly destined as meat for export to Japan.
It resumed its hunt in June, after a three-year hiatus.
But no blue whale – a highly endangered cetacean – has been deliberately killed for 40 years.
“We have never caught a blue whale in our waters since they were protected,” Kristján Loftsson, the managing director of Hvalur told CNN.
“We see them in the ocean. When you approach a blue whale, it’s so distinct that you leave it alone."

Hvalur claims that the whale was a blue-fin whale hybrid.
But experts agree the slumped leviathan on the Icelandic killing slope shows all the features of the largest animal that has ever existed on Earth.
The mottled blue skin, the black baleen, the relatively tiny, hooked dorsal fin – all point to a pure blue whale (as if its purity actually mattered).
Having seen many blue whales at close quarters, I can attest to this identification.
As Peter Wilson, a whale expert and tour guide to Iceland, notes in his blog: “Whether they thought it was a blue or had someone out there who doesn’t know the difference, it shows complete disregard for any idea of expertise and a scientifically supported sense of sustainability”.

Surely the killing of such an animal should raise a furore as great as the one that met the shooting of Cecil the lion by a Minnesota dentist in 2015?
Yet the (potentially very painful) death of this blue whale follows a under-reported story in May that Japan had killed 122 pregnant minke whales in its 2018 whaling season (sorry, “field survey”).
It all starts to look like a sadly familiar game.
Who can offend the most?
Can they get away with it?

The heart of this issue lies in appropriation.
Who owns a whale?
When a sperm whale died off the coast of the Netherlands two weeks ago, it was towed back to land and lifted on to a quayside, where a necropsy was performed to determine cause of death (pneumonia) and ascertain how to deal with live strandings – a vital question on the shores of the shallow North Sea, where there has been a spate of such incidents in recent years.
Unlike Hvalur, the organisations involved were behaving absolutely honourably.
But as usual, the public was told to keep away, for reasons of “health and safety”.
Sometimes science can get in the way of the very thing it tries to understand.
By removing a whale from public sight – as if it is somehow shameful – don’t we increase the same sense of disconnection that can allow an Icelandic whaler to kill a blue whale, or Japanese whalers to slay hundreds of minkes?

“Charismatic megafauna” – whales, elephants, rhinos, lions, polar bears – have become the ammunition at the front line of ecopolitics.
They’re media-friendly memes in the polarised debate over the animate “resources” of our planet.
Both sides use animals to further their aims.
The animals lose out, twice over.
Their right to selfdom is denied, and the distance between us – what the art critic John Berger called “the narrow abyss of miscomprehension” – increases.

This spring, Cape Cod’s Center for Coastal Studies announced that the North Atlantic right whale, of which fewer than 430 remain, faces extinction by 2050.
In the past 12 months, 18 individuals have been killed by ship strikes or by being caught in fishing gear.
Not a single new calf has been observed this year.
These whales haven’t been hunted by Icelandic or Japanese whalers.
They die within sight of US shores, in the purview of the richest, most powerful democracy on Earth.
Ordinary people are left feeling powerless.
It is the monolithic leviathan of state that Hobbes critiqued, versus the exquisite yet fragile leviathan of the sea.

Ever since it began, the environmental movement has used the weighty issue of whaling as a Manichean struggle of good and evil.
But given the urgency of this situation, we need new ways to think about ourselves and animals – as a continuum, not a demarcation.
There is no “them” and “us”.
The radical contemporary philosopher Tim Morton has defined a “dark ecology”, as an expression of “irony, ugliness, and horror”.

Are we doomed to re-enact these narratives, playing hopelessly with archetypes while animals die, over and over again?
Or can we find a better story than the pathetic one told by that deflated, beautiful animal, hauled out of the infinite sea and into our sea of ignorance?

Links :

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The race to send robots to mine the ocean floor

Maersk Launcher conducting offshore campaign

in the Clarion Clipperton Zone in the Pacific Ocean.

From Wired by Eric Niiler

When the 300-foot Maersk Launcher docked in San Diego early Monday morning, it unloaded a cargo of hardened black blobs scooped from the bottom of the sea.
The blobs are not rocks, but naturally-occurring metallic nodules that could one day yield metal deposits of cobalt, manganese, and nickel—not to mention scarce rare earth minerals.

As worldwide demand rises for electric vehicle batteries and wind turbines, along with next generation technologies and weapon systems, demand for these metals has taken off.
And the seabed is a prime target for those mining operations.
Of course, it's no small feat to bring these potato-sized nodules from the bottom of the remote Pacific Ocean, and then sail them to a processing plant where the metals can be extracted.

 Seafloor polymetallic nodules recovered from NORI’s exploration license area.
photo : Deep Green

But leaders of Canada-based mining company DeepGreen Metals and its subsidiary NORI (Nauru Ocean Resources Inc.) think they have figured out how to harvest the nodules without wrecking the deep ocean habitat—and make a profit at the same time.

“Nature created this abundant resource filled with all the metals we need for our future,” says Deep Green CEO Gerard Barron, a former advertising technology entrepreneur from Australia who says he has plowed $8 million of his own money into the undersea mining enterprise.
“It’s the new oil. Everything you need to build an EV battery is contained in our nodules.”

A team of more than 70 DeepGreen technicians, researchers, and scientists just completed a seven-week voyage aboard the Maersk Launcher to the Clarion Clipperton Zone, a 1.7 million square mile hunk of the Pacific between Hawaii and Mexico where much of the world’s supply of these nodules exist.

 Deployment of box core to collect seafloor polymetallic nodules

Researchers aboard the ship dropped box-shaped coring devices 12,000 feet to the seafloor to sample the nodules as well as bring up sediments and mud from the seafloor.
Roving autonomous underwater vehicles filmed the operation, provided directions, and collected water quality data.
The mission is the first of several that are required as part of an environmental impact statement that DeepGreen must complete before getting a final permit from the International Seabed Authority.
The authority regulates exploration and mining activity in the Clipperton zone and has partitioned mining rights to various nations, including DeepGreen's partner, the island nation of Nauru.

courtesy of ISA

DeepGreen says it wants to do the right thing when it comes to the seafloor habitat.
It recently hired Greg Stone, a former chief scientist for Conservation International, to help it make a plan for low-impact seafloor mining and the bottom habitat.
“This is the first time that we’ve sat back prior to launching mineral extraction thought about it,” Stone says.
He notes that DeepGreen is also relying on data from previous efforts to scoop up these mineral-laden deposits.
That includes the infamous Glomar Explorer that turned out to be a clandestine effort by the CIA to recover a sunken Soviet submarine

“We are relying on decades of policy development and years of research to characterize the seafloor and build models of the deep sea so we understand how the currents flow, what animals live there, and what changes there will be,” Stone says.

 illustration Deep Green

DeepGreen says it is designing a harvester running on treads that it hopes to test within the next year or two.
The idea is to drive the autonomous device across the seabed, scooping up just a few inches of the seabed.
The scoop will be attached to a vacuum-line that sucks the nodules up to the ship on the surface.
The enclosed-loop system will return the cold ocean water to the bottom rather than dumping it into the warmer surface layers to minimize environmental impacts, Stone says.

They also want to make sure the seabed isn’t left a mess.
One way to do that is by harvesting in a checkerboard pattern of squares.
The idea would be to allow untouched areas where deep sea animals and plants could either find shelter or recolonize.
“We will be applying the best practices and principles, cataloging all the species that live down there to find out if there are any discongruities on the seafloor,” Stone says.
“If we find an area that has a unique species clustered around several hundred square kilometers or square meters, we would give that a pass.
If we find the whole seafloor is the same, we will make sure our work down there is done in a patchwork fashion so we don’t go through an area and wipe it out.”

Despite these precautions, some marine scientists believe it is difficult to leave the seabed untouched.
Andrea Koschinsky-Fritsche of Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, has been studying the potential impacts of mining on various deep sea habitats.
She compares mining to the impacts of fishing trawl nets that are dragged across the seafloor.
“The effect on the bottom sediment is quite similar, but recovery of deep sea is much slower than bottom trawling areas,” Koschinsky-Fritsche says.
“The continental shelf has more food than the deep sea ecosystem.”
She says that scientists still don’t know much about the diversity and population of the worms, mollusks, fish, and other inhabitants of the dark world at the seafloor.

Of course, these uncertainties aren’t stopping mining companies like DeepGreen or London-based UK Seabed Resources, a subsidiary of Lockheed-Martin, which are planning more tests and pilot projects before full-scale operations could begin in the next few years.
In April, Japanese researchers announced they found a trove of similar black nodules that contain hundreds of years worth of rare-earth metals just 1,150 miles southeast of Tokyo.
It appears the slow-motion race to to undersea riches has just kicked up a notch.

Links :

Monday, July 16, 2018

An 11-million-ton iceberg is threatening a tiny village in Greenland

photo : Ritzau Scanpix / Karl Petersen / via Reuters
see YouTube

From The Washington Post by Cleve R. Wootson Jr.

An 11-million-ton iceberg is parked precariously close to the tiny village of Innaarsuit — a glacial faceoff that pits 169 residents of Greenland against the biggest iceberg many have ever seen.

Their fate could be entirely dependent on the weather forecast.

If a strong enough wind blows at the right time, the berg could be dislodged from the spot where it has grounded, and float harmlessly into Baffin Bay.
Crisis over.

But if Mother Nature brings enough rain, the relatively warm precipitation could further destabilize the iceberg, potentially sending a chunk of it into the ocean and creating a tsunami that could wash away part of the town.
“We are very concerned and are afraid,” Karl Petersen, chair for the local council in Innaarsuit, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
So far, 33 people have been moved to safer places inland.
Others have been encouraged to move their boats away from the iceberg.

Innaarsuit on the West coats of Greenland (DGA nautical chart with the GeoGarage platform)

Innaarsuit is about 600 miles north of Nuuk, the country's capital.
The village's residents are mostly hunters and fishermen in an isolated area most easily reached by boat or helicopter.

The iceberg is 650 feet wide — nearly the length of two football fields — and rises 300 feet above sea level, according to the New York Times.
In terrifying pictures, it literally casts a shadow on a hilly outcropping of Innaarsuit, dwarfing boats, homes and businesses.

 Sentinel-2 09-07-2018

Residents don't need lengthy memories to know the effect even a small tsunami could have on the country that doubles as the world's biggest island.

Last June, according to Quartz, a landslide caused by a 4.1-magnitude earthquake that struck 17 miles north of the village of Nuugaatsiaq partly triggered a tsunami that washed away 11 homes and killed four people.
Video posted online showed villagers sprinting away from approaching waves washing over seaside homes.

Tsunamis caused by landslides in bays can rise to incredible heights, travel at devastating speeds, and cause massive destruction, according to Quartz.
A similar giant wave was thought to have destroyed the city of Geneva in 563 AD, the Economist wrote.

Of course, even if there isn't some giant city-destroying Hollywood-style tsunami, there are other dangers from rising water.
Nearby rivers could overflow their banks, for example, threatening homes and other buildings that don't face the sea.
And Innaarsuit's power plant is also on the coast, meaning flooding in a very specific place could send Innaarsuit into the Dark Ages.

A Danish Royal Navy ship is standing by, according to the CBC, in case the situation sours.
“We can feel the concern among the residents,” Susanna Eliasson, a member of the village council, told CBC.
“We are used to big icebergs, but we haven’t seen such a big one before.”

For now, the residents of Innaarsuit are watching the weather.
The area will see relatively sedate winds for the next week.
And on Sunday, July 22, it's supposed to rain.

Links :

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Back to the Volvo Ocean Race 2017-18

After the closest ever edition of the Volvo Ocean Race, here's everything you need to know about sport's toughest test of a team – and why winning it is an obsession for the world's best sailors

Saturday, July 14, 2018

NYU scientists capture 4-mile iceberg breaking in Greenland

A team of NYU scientists has captured on video a four-mile iceberg breaking away
from a glacier in eastern Greenland.
This phenomenon, known as "calving", is a force behind the rise of global sea water levels.
“Global sea-level rise is both undeniable and consequential,” observes David Holland, a professor at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematics and NYU Abu Dhabi, who led the research team.
“By capturing how it unfolds, we can see, first-hand, its breath-taking significance.”
Holland’s research team has studied the waters off the coast of Greenland for more than a decade by measuring subtle changes in water temperature and wave formation.
Video Credit: Denise Holland, Logistics Coordinator/NYU’s Environmental Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (Video shot June 22, 2018- Real time length: 30 minutes)

 Helheim glacier DGA nautical chart with the GeoGarage platform

Helheim glacier observed by NASA 

Links :

Friday, July 13, 2018

Australia (AHS) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

7 nautical raster charts updated
see GeoGarage news

 "New Holland and New Guinea" 1798

Stanford study reveals the pulse of the polar vortex – and a key to mapping future storms

ESA’s Aeolus mission scientist, Anne Grete Straume explains how winds are generated, how they affect our weather, and how Aeolus will measure the wind and how this information will be used to improve weather forecasts and climate models.

From Standford University by Josie Garthwaith

A new analysis of how air moves between two layers of Earth’s atmosphere reveals a deep system that could enable long-term weather forecasts and better climate models.

If you can predict the path of the jet stream, the upper atmosphere’s undulating river of wind, then you can predict weather – not just for a week or two, but for an entire season.
A new Stanford study moves toward that level of foresight by revealing a physical link between the speed and location of the jet stream and the strength of the polar vortex, a swirl of air that usually hovers over the Arctic.

“The jet stream sets everything,” said Aditi Sheshadri, lead author and assistant professor of Earth System Science in the School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth).
“Storms ride along it.
They interact with it.
If the jet stream shifts, the place where the storms are strongest will also shift.”

The research, published in the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, identifies two distinct modes in how air flows within the jet stream and the layers of atmosphere that sandwich it.

 Alex (IK MetOffice) explains the Polar Vortex.

The atmosphere’s deep system

In one mode, changes in wind speed and direction start close to the equator in the troposphere, the wet, stormy layer of atmosphere below the jet stream and closest to Earth’s surface.
Shifts of wind in this mode quickly propagate up through the jet stream and into the polar vortex in the dry, upper layer of atmosphere known as the stratosphere.

In the other mode, the strength of the stratosphere’s polar vortex influences the path and strength of the jet stream – and how it interacts with storms in the troposphere.
In this mode, the polar vortex sends a signal all the way down to the surface like a pulse.
A weaker vortex produces a weak jet stream that slips toward the equator; a stronger vortex intensifies the jet stream while drawing it poleward.

“These deep vertical structures haven’t been shown before,” Sheshadri said.
“It’s something fundamental about the system itself.” Her analysis could help explain the surface weather impacts of an event that occurred in early 2018, when the vortex weakened so much that it ripped in two – a phenomenon that scientists know can blast up to two months of extreme weather into western Europe.
Until now, understanding of these interactions has been based on observations and statistical modeling rather than knowledge of their physical foundation.

These modes could be key to predicting the long-term effects of certain environmental changes on Earth’s surface.
While air is thought to flow relatively independently within the troposphere and stratosphere in normal winters, depleted ozone, high levels of greenhouse gases, ocean warming, reduced snow cover, and other disturbances can rattle this independence, affecting both the vortex and jet stream in complex ways.
Greenhouse gas emissions, for example, can strengthen the vortex while simultaneously boosting waves that propagate up from the troposphere and weaken the vortex as they break.

“We don’t know which of these two effects of increasing greenhouse gases will win out,” Sheshadri said.

Changes in wind speed and direction that start in the troposphere close to the equator quickly propagate up toward the stratosphere and poles.
(Image credit: Aditi Sheshadri)

Building better climate models

To help find answers, Sheshadri’s team set out to understand the climate as a system that responds in a predictable way to known forces, despite internal dynamics that are a mix of random and systematic fluctuations.
They took a mathematical theorem used for nearly a century to predict seemingly random behavior in quantum mechanical systems and applied it to data representing Earth’s atmosphere in wintertime.

“We have 35 years of wind data,” Sheshadri said.
“Can we say something just from those observations about how the winds will change if, for instance, you increase carbon dioxide? That’s what got this whole thing started.”

Current climate models excel at showing temperature changes throughout the atmosphere’s layers over time and with varying levels of substances like ozone or carbon dioxide.
“We’re pretty certain about how the temperature structure of the atmosphere is going to change,” Sheshadri said.
“However, if you look at changes in things like wind or rain or snow – anything that’s a dynamical quantity – we really have very little idea of what’s going on.”

And yet, these are some of the most vivid metrics for a changing climate.
“No one feels the global mean temperature,” Sheshadri said.
“How many times over the next 10 years are we going to have to deal with floods or cold snaps in a particular region? That’s the sort of question this might help answer.”

By revealing the physical processes that underpin some of these dynamic variables, the method developed in this study could also help weed out flaws in climate models.

“The way that we currently do this is that you take a model and you run it forward,” checking the model’s predictions against observed data, Sheshadri explained.
But many models built upon the same historic data produce different predictions for the future, in part because they make different assumptions about how the troposphere and stratosphere interact and how the jet stream fluctuates.
Until now there has not been a way to check those assumptions against the atmosphere’s actual variability.

“We need to be sure the models are right, and for the right reasons,” Sheshadri said.
The new work provides a way to resolve that uncertainty – and to anticipate storms months into the future.

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

One in three fish caught never makes it to the plate – UN report

From The Guardian by Damian Carrington

Global fish production is at record levels thanks to fish farming, says the UN FAO, but much is wasted and many species are worryingly overfished

One in three fish caught around the world never makes it to the plate, either being thrown back overboard or rotting before it can be eaten, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

Its biannual report on the state of the world’s fisheries, released on Monday, also shows that total fish production has reached a record high thanks to more fish farming, particularly in China, with over half the fish eaten in the world now coming from aquaculture.

In contrast, the amount of wild caught fish has barely changed since the late 1980s and a third of commercial fish species are overfished, the FAO says.
Fish farms will continue to expand and the FAO projects that almost 20% more fish will be eaten by 2030, helping sustain the growing global population.
However, farmed fish can harm wild populations because often their feed, made from wild fish such as sardines and anchovies, is caught at sea and they can cause pollution.

Fish are a crucial source of nutrition for billions of people around the globe, but overfishing is rife in some regions, with two-thirds of species overexploited in the Mediterranean and Black Seas and the Southeast Pacific.
Previous analyses that include estimates for illegal fishing indicate that wild fish stocks are declining faster than FAO data suggest and that half the world’s oceans are now industrially fished.

Guardian Graphic | Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN

“Since 1961 the annual global growth in fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth, demonstrating that the fisheries sector is crucial in meeting the FAO’s goal of a world without hunger and malnutrition,” said José Graziano da Silva, FAO director general.

Many challenges remain, he said, but recent initiatives to crack down on illegal fishing will mark “a turning point” in favour of long-term conservation.

The FAO reports that 35% of global catches are wasted.
About a quarter of these losses are bycatch or discards, mostly from trawlers, where unwanted fish are thrown back dead because they are too small or an unwanted species.
But most of the losses are due to a lack of knowledge or equipment, such as refrigeration or ice-makers, needed to keep fish fresh.

The FAO has worked with developing nations to cut losses, including the use of raised racks for fish drying, which resulted in a 50% cut in losses of fish from Lake Tanganyika in Africa.
Around the Indian Ocean, better facilities for handling the crab harvest cut losses by 40%.

Aquaculture now dominates the fish people eat, providing 53% of the total recorded by the FAO in 2016, the latest data available (excluding fish not used as human food).
Farming also dominates the fishing economy, providing two-thirds of the $362bn (£274bn) earned from sales at the dockside.

The FAO report sets out the huge scale of global fishing: it employs 60 million people and there are 4.6m fishing vessels on the planet.
This huge effort is worrying in many places, the FAO says, with too many boats chasing too few fish.

As a result, the number of species being overfished has trebled in the last 40 years.
The report also states that climate change will drive fish away from warm tropical waters, where nations are often especially reliant on seafood, towards more temperate regions.

A third of the world's fish stocks were overfished in 2015
Global trends in the state of the world's marine fish stocks, percentage
Guardian Graphic | Source: Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN

Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana in Europe, said huge improvements were needed across the fishing industry. “Food waste on a hungry planet is outrageous,” he said.
“The fact that one-third of all fish caught goes to waste is a huge cause for concern for global food security."

On overfishing, particularly in the Mediterranean, he said: “We know the situation, we have the solutions: setting fish catch limits to scientific advice and stopping illegal and destructive fishing. All we’re missing is political action.”

Mediterranean overfishing and efforts to overcome the problem

Gustavsson added: “Aquaculture is far from being the magic bullet, as it is often unsustainable. Using 20m tonnes of fish like mackerel, sardines and anchovies to feed farmed fish instead of people is a blatant waste of food.”

Prof Daniel Pauly, at the Sea Around Us research initiative at the University of British Columbia, Canada, has been very critical of previous FAO reports, which he says significantly underestimated the total catch by failing to account for illegal fishing.

But he welcomed the new report for considering a much wider range of information: “The crisis of [overfishing] will be hard to solve. However, collaborations between different stakeholders may help turn around some of the negative trends. This is the best issue of [the FAO fisheries report] that I have ever read.”

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Canada CHS layer update in the GeoGarage platform

71 nautical raster charts updated & 1 new chart added

The future of the Arctic economy

Map of the Arctic region showing shipping routes Northeast Passage, Northern Sea Route, and Northwest Passage, and bathymetry (Wikimedia Commons)

From Maritime Executive by Rachael Gosnell

The economic potential of the Arctic is vast, but the complexities of the region must be considered when analyzing the future of the Arctic.
While the region north of the Arctic Circle is commonly viewed as a singular expanse, the reality is rather different.
Within the Arctic – and amongst the eight Arctic nations – there exists noteworthy similarities but also tremendous variations.
Indeed, the Arctic is a diverse part of the world that would be best characterized as several different subregions, all with unique resources, populations, accessibility, geostrategic importance, and challenges.
It is critical to analyze economic drivers and political factors across the High North in order to evaluate the economic potential of the region, understand national security interests, and develop appropriate Arctic policy.

Geopolitical and Geo Economic Thinking on the Arctic
Presentation by Heather Conley, CSIS Center for Strategic & International Studies

A Challenging Environment

One constant throughout the Arctic region is the hostile climate.
Record setting cold, ice-covered waters, rapidly emerging storms, and high winds define the region.
The warming trends of the High North, which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) note are about double the rate of global warming trends, are of such a magnitude that the pace of sea ice decline and surface ocean warming is unprecedented.
This warming is contributing to an alarming decline in ice coverage at sea and permafrost ashore.
The warming trends are forecasted to continue at an increasingly rapid rate due to the albedo effect, making Arctic weather more unpredictable as the likelihood of fog, storms, and even ice floes rises in upcoming years.
All Arctic states must confront these challenges and share a common interest in conducting research to better understand the scientific trends that are emerging in the region.

The majority – nearly half – of the Arctic’s four million inhabitants live in the Russian Arctic, with the largest communities located in Murmansk and Norilsk.
These cities dwarf the largest comparable North American communities, though population trends indicate a slight shift toward growth in the Alaskan and Canadian Arctic.
Yet the Arctic population in total is predicted to experience only a slight upward growth in the upcoming decades, with just a 4 percent growth rate predicted through 2030.
When compared with the global growth rate projection of 29 percent over the same period, it becomes clear that the region will not becoming a booming source of labor.
Indeed, the Business Index North 2018 report notes that many cities in the Arctic are confronting challenges stemming from the loss of the region’s youth – who move south in search of education and jobs – and a gender imbalance.
Further, as the Arctic warms, attracting interest to the region, the indigenous communities are facing new challenges.
Thawing permafrost is causing damages to infrastructure as the ground becomes less stable.
Developing new infrastructure to support economic development will require innovative approaches in a region not experienced in such issues.
The logistical difficulties of transporting building materials and expertise will further compound the issue.

The warming trends, however, will certainly enable further economic activity in the region.
Diminishing sea ice coverage is enabling greater maritime traffic.
However, it remains unlikely that the northern routes will become competitors of the Suez Canal despite the difference and significantly shorter distance (approximately 4,700nm) from Northern Europe to East Asia that amounts to a decreased transit time of 12 to 15 days if weather conditions cooperate.
Yet of the primary identified shipping routes through the Arctic – the Northern Sea Route (NSR), Northwest Passage (NWP), and Transpolar Route (TPR) – only the NSR will have extended periods of opening through approximately 2025.

President Vladimir Putin has revived Russia's dreams of exploiting its Arctic territory – boosted by a warming climate that has opened up the Northern Sea Route.
The FT travels to remote reaches of Siberia to see if Russia can make it work.

New Opportunities

Shipping companies and countries alike are exploring the potential new trade routes.
Putin has exclaimed that the Northern Sea Route will rival international trade lanes and indeed, there has been an increase of vessel activity in the region.
In 2017, the Northern Sea Route Administration (NSRA) issued 662 permissions to vessels for navigation along the NSR, though only 107 of these for foreign (non-Russian) flagged vessels.
During that year, the NSRA notes that 9.74 million tons of various freights were transported by vessels, though mostly between ports located along the NSR.
Indeed, in 2017, there were only 24 vessels and 194,364 tons of cargo that transited the duration of the route – much less than the record high in 2013 when China’s COSCO and others sent cargos through to explore the possibility of a maritime route.
That year, aided by exceptional weather conditions, 71 vessels and 1.36 million tons of cargo transited the Northern Sea Route.
Yet this still pales in comparison to the Suez Canal traffic, which saw more than 17,600 vessels and 1.04 billion tons of cargo in 2017.

Weather and vessel size limitations – due to reduced water depths and widths limited to icebreaker accompaniment – will reduce the efficiencies of the commercial shipping industry, which values economies of scale and the just-in-time shipping model.
Arctic shipping in its current state is not yet reliable enough to adhere to these requirements, although when the Transpolar Route opens it may become more appealing.
China has already looked northward to link the “Polar Silk Road” to its broader One Belt One Road Initiative.
Yet weather will remain a challenge, with unpredictable ice floes moving into vessel routes, harsh storms, and cold operating temperatures.
The International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code was a solid effort to improve safety and establish training and operating standards for vessels in the Arctic, but it will likely need continuous updates to remain relevant.
International coordination on Arctic maritime safety and emergency response will be critical to ensuring the prevention – or expeditious response – of a maritime crisis.
Given the fragility of the environment, hostile conditions, and dearth of emergency response capabilities in the Arctic, cooperation will be critical to the future.

Another significant economic driver for the region is the abundant presence of energy both on shore and within the exclusive economic zones of the five Arctic coastal nations.
Several countries have already submitted claims to further extend their claims under the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
This includes a number of overlapping claims, to include the Lomonosov Ridge – and the North Pole.
Although the United States remains the sole Arctic nation that has not ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) it appears that all Arctic nations will submit claims in accordance with UNCLOS.
Yet the review of such claims make well take years due to the backlog of the Commission and the complexity of the review process.
Until then, there remains a potential for disputes over economic resources, although Norway and Russia resolved the biggest dispute in the region peacefully in 2010.
Currently the largest disputes in the Arctic are between the United States and Canada.

The Arctic ice is retreating due to climate change. 
The region’s once inaccessible raw materials have caught the attention of major world powers. Countries like the USA, Russia and China are positioning themselves, scouting out the land and securing the best sites for getting their hands on the raw materials.
The animals of the Arctic are also having to fight - for their survival.
Russia already has an ultra-modern nuclear-powered icebreaker in operation.
The Norwegian company Statoil is conducting test drilling with its cutting-edge rig "Songa Enabler," which was designed especially for the Arctic; it’s the most northerly drilling operation in the world. Norway hopes to discover vast natural wealth in the Arctic.
But the borders in the Arctic have not yet been set, and a war over resources is always a distinct danger.
For the animals of the Arctic, including seals and polar bears, the melting sea ice is also having drastic consequences.
They’re losing their habitats and their search for food is becoming increasingly difficult.
In addition, the rubbish that is piling up in the Arctic only degrades very slowly and it’s poisoning the animals.
Seabirds and whales are dying because they can’t digest the plastic in their stomachs.
International fishing fleets are the main culprits when it comes to rubbish in the Arctic.
The ice used to be a natural barrier.
Now the trawlers can penetrate further and further into the icy ocean and, as a result, catch greater quantities of fish.
Overfishing is almost inevitable.
Furthermore the huge trawl nets used by the industrial fishing fleets are destroying the ocean floor, an important habitat.
For years, environmental organizations such as Greenpeace have been complaining about the problems caused by fishing and raw-material exploitation in the Arctic.

While oil and gas reserves are still unknown, it is estimated that the Arctic may hold nearly one-third of the world’s natural gas and thirteen percent of global oil reserves.
Yet costs of exploring, developing, and extracting these resources are very high given the harsh environment, limited infrastructure, and difficulties posed.
Given the current market prices, there is limited interest in pursuing these reserves in North America, though Norway and Russia are continuing development in the Barents and Kara Seas.
The Chinese Nanhai-8 rig made an April 2018 discovery that may rank the Leningradskoye field as one of Russia’s largest natural gas fields.
Indeed, China has also invested in the Yamal LNG project, which has ownership of 50.1 percent by Novatek, 20 percent by total, 20 percent by China National petroleum Company, and 9.9 percent by the Chinese Silk Road Fund.
Production officially began in December 2017 and officials predict an annual production of up to 360 billion cubic meters of gas.
The new Christophe de Margerie class of icebreaking LNG carriers – projected to be a total of 15 vessels at more than $300 million apiece – has commenced deliveries from Yamal to Asia.
While the transit shipping of cargo may not be viable for decades, it is clear that Russia is intent on using the Northern Sea Route to ship commodities to market, albeit on a small scale when compared to the global maritime industry.
Overall production of Arctic energy reserves will likely remain limited in the near future, unless the price of oil climbs significantly.
Other sources of oil and gas – to include shale and using newer technology on older fields – will continue to remain a more economical option.

Mineral resources are also found in vast quantities throughout the Arctic, with all Arctic nations except Iceland possessing significant mineral deposits.
While some new deposits are being revealed as ice coverage melts, it is likely that development in the near term will continue to focus on existing mines.
It is predicted that infrastructure to these mines and areas will steadily be improved to permit future access.

Changes in climate are also likely to result in increased fishing in the Arctic.
While there is little data on exact sizes of Arctic fishing stocks, it is likely that fish will continue migrations northward as the waters warm in the south.
International fishing fleets will follow these fish, and the level of illegal and unreported fishing will likely rise due to the challenges of monitoring the vast region and lack of comprehensive maritime domain awareness.
Yet this is also another opportunity for the Arctic coastal states to work together, in regulating and monitoring fishing.
Likewise, the regulation of tourism in Arctic water – and the establishment of clear safety and emergency response protocols – will require cooperation from the Arctic states as the numbers of tourists rise.
Indeed, the 2016 and 2017 Northwest Passage transits of the Crystal Serenity cruise ship and 1,800 passengers (900 guests) highlight the importance of developing both regulations and crisis response procedures as the adventure tourism industry continues to grow.

A final economic factor in the Arctic will be foreign direct investment.
To date, the Arctic has received significant levels of FDI, with China being the largest source at an estimated $1.4 trillion invested into the economies of the Arctic nations from 2005-2017.
Concerns arise over the potential for externalities associated with this investment, particularly given China’s record on labor and environmental issues.
China’s recent Arctic White Paper establishes that China will continue to seek investment and other economic opportunities in the region.


The Arctic is brimming with economic potential.
Though the population will continue to be a small fraction of the global population, the region has significant natural resources and potential as a maritime trade route.
With an annual economy presently exceeding $450 billion, it is likely that the region will experience further growth as the Arctic becomes increasingly accessible.
Yet Arctic states must carefully regulate this growth in order to ensure protection of the environment, indigenous peoples, and their own strategic interests.
This will further require significant cooperation amongst the nations of the High North – and those with interests in the region – in order to ensure the development and adherence to protocols and regulations that guide economic development.

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